Time in the kitchen is dear to me. I only got passionate about cooking around 2003. I was never very good at grilling. I have developed some finesse with Smoking food. I love spicy, and adore savory food.
Lacto-fermentation and pickling are of special interest. Living as we do in the desert southwest, we really love the Mexican spice pallet.
We adore chiles of all kinds and Hatch Green Chile is literally where we are. We live in the Mesilla Valley, right on the Rio Grande. Spring & Summer the chile fields are a short drive away. In the fall, the smell of green chillies roasting is outside (and inside) all of our grocery stores.
Another area of interest is asian food. Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand. I have sampled these foods for many years owing to service in the US Army. Military towns are chock full of restaurants build by spouses and families who came to the U.S. by family relation.
Likewise with Latin America and the Caribbean. We have socialized with so many people from these lands that I have little trouble understanding how to prepare these foods.
I keep reading about Morocco and other northern Africa cuisines and have attempted a few dishes. My problem is that in order to understand those spice pallets I need to taste the foods and understand how they work. Google is of no help in this.
As with most other things, Google has been the foundation of my education in cooking. Some of these recipes are taken straight from articles at various web sites — others adapted for books like Fiery Ferments. When I want to learn how to prepare something, I will do some searching. I will read three or more articles on the project at hand and pick & choose the desirable features. Often this is driven by what is in my pantry.
Here are some tools I am happy to recommend for these productions.
Pickling and Lacto-fermentation
When most people hear the word pickling they assume we are preserving vegetables in vinegar. I do preserve some things in vinegar and recipes are abundant on the internet. Lacto-fermentation is a process to ferment vegetables in salt and an absence of oxygen using several species of lactobacillus bacteria which, conveniently, come home with you on your fresh veggies. You can read a lot more about this here.
I am so interested in this that I actually own an incubator. You can use this process to create delectable dishes and condiments. One of the delightful aspects of this is the preservation qualities of the product. Several of my recipes include the word starter. These products provide a base that is used with other ingredients to complete the fresh condiment. If you use Pico de Gallo or Pesto you have experienced problems with the condiment going bad before you finished eating it. I have found that making these condiments with a fermented starter means that your product will last a lot longer in the fridge. Likewise with Recaito and Sofrito, go ahead and make a large batch. They will last many months without spoiling. When I describe those products I am careful to add the word Reposado (aged). The process I use is not traditional anywhere I have learned about, and I do not pretend that any of them compare to your family recipe.
I should point out that all of my fermentation recipes feature garlic. I think that both the mineral makeup and flavor of garlic are key to the success of these products.
One thing; you cannot use tap water in lacto-fermentation. The Chlorine and sometimes ammonia in tap water is anti-microbial and you are working with microbes to produce delicious fermented foods.
The pickling method that immediately comes to mind is using vinegar to produce a nice acid bath for your food to be preserved for weeks or months. Fresh pickling calls for one of many vinegars, salt, sometimes sugar, and spices to impart some added flavor to the thing you are pickling. While I really enjoy the flavor of Lacto-fermented products, some products do not work well with fermentation. Meat, tomatoes, cucumbers, and fish are, to varying degrees, difficult or unsafe to ferment with pleasing results. In this case vinegar pickling is the best option.
Do not forget that Lemon and Lime juice are also acidic. Some of these recipes call for one of these.
The Fresh Sauces
These sauces are treasured and for good reason. They feature fresh herbs. They will not hold up in the fridge for more than three to six days, so you generally prepare them for a meal and use them right away. That being said, don´t stop your planning after that meal. Now and then we try a new ¨Hip¨ sandwich shop where the decor is right but the kitchen had never met a sauce. You can turn a hot or cold sandwich into something special with a schmier of sauce.